Today I wanted to take some time to write about where I’m at on my fitness journey as I approach my 4 year mark of changing my lifestyle. In those 4 years I’ve learned so much about myself, my body, my mindset and personal passion. My journey has been nothing close to linear, but I am so fortunate for the highs and lows of the journey. Hopefully through sharing my experience, I can help someone who’s working on their own path.
The Year is 2018!
After a 7 year stint of debilitating back pain and limited range of motion from fracturing my spine I was definitely feeling defeated in the kind of lifestyle I would be living and could feel my health continuing to decline. Luckily after so many years I finally found a doctor who was willing to help me find a way to reduce the pain. After having that procedure, my life changed. I began hiking and going to the gym almost daily. Like so many others starting their fitness journey, the gym routine solely consisted of cardio machines, but it was a good place to start and a way I could lose weight and get more pressure off my back. After dropping about 20 pounds (which took about 5 months), I began experimenting with weightlifting.
2019 - The Year of Intensity
My love for weightlifting hit quickly and intensely. After so many years of restricted movement, I wanted to gain back mobility and strength. I began weightlifting at least 6 times a day. Even though I was often working 60-70 hours a week, I still would go to the gym at midnight or 1am for a 60-90 minute workout. I didn’t have time for a lot of sleep but I traded that for strength. Was that healthy? No! Of course that wasn’t healthy. So many of us start our journey with this all-or-nothing mentality. Social media makes it seem like that’s the only path to health.
This continued until the pandemic hit and I got sick in April 2020. For over a year I worked out intensely and I actually enjoyed the process. I never resented the amount of training, and it was great for my mental health. It reduced my anxiety and depression greatly. When I got sick I spent 2 months on bedrest and then had severe exhaustion for months and it took until July for me to get medication to improve my breathing. All training stopped and I couldn’t even go for walks. In August of 2020, 4 months later, I finally started taking walks again. They had to be short and couldn’t include an incline but it was nice to get moving. This is when I knew I’d have to revise my entire take on exercise.
Once I began walking again and was in the process of getting my Personal Training Certification, I decided to use my new knowledge to make a training plan based on if I was a client. With low cardio health and reduced mobility, my top priorities were improving flexibility, reducing back pain and improving my cardio ability. With this in mind, my new plan was to:
Go for 2 short walks a day
Start the day with 15 minutes of yoga
Do 15-20 minutes of stretching and foam rolling to improve mobility of my hips, legs and shoulders
While this may seem pretty easy to some, and maybe challenging for others, this was exactly what I needed. I felt continually challenged for the first few months and it gave me a good routine to get me through the year. Going into 2021 I was getting through these tasks with ease and feeling a lot less pain and definitely more strength and stamina.
A great addition to my life in 2021, was adding in a Pelvic Floor Physical therapist. While I was ill, I actually had my uterus prolapse and my organs drop. This is similar to what commonly happens to mothers after birth, except I didn’t have a baby! This was part of the reason why my back was in so much pain and I had lost my ability to wait to use the restroom. That pelvic floor musculature is how you can hold it! If I can’t be a little TMI on my blog, where can I??!
Within a few months of working with this PF therapist, I was doing quite a bit better and feeling like I can really go back to regular life! It was so great to even know I wasn’t going to the bathroom every 15 minutes! On top of that, it did wonders for core and back engagement. It actually helped me to better engage my glute muscles, which was something I struggled with my entire fitness journey due to my back injury.
While I had started using weights again in January, it wasn’t until March that I really started to feel comfortable! My schedule was starting to feel a bit overwhelming with daily PT, yoga, stretching, walking and 3-4 weight lifting sessions a week. I was doing somewhere between 1.5-2 hours a day of activity and realizing that was too much for my mental health. It’s so important to know your limits and if you’re feeling overwhelmed with how much time you are putting in, that you find a way to dial it back. The goal is always to find a way to approach health and wellness as a lifestyle, not a quick and easy fad.
By the time I reached July I was feeling really good about my balance and had shortened my PT time each day to be more efficient and in April I had started fostering 2 dogs, one of which I ended up adopting, and more of my time was spent outside on walks and for weight training I was doing quick and easy 20 minute circuits. You don’t need a huge chunk of time to get in a good workout!
In July of 2021 I started back working full time in theatre again and traveled to California for 2.5 months. Theatre goes well beyond working 40 hours a week, and I was working more like 70-80 hours, so training took a backburner. That’s ok! If you’re working long hours for a few weeks or months, you don’t have to pick training over sleep. You have to prioritize what is the best for you. My job was pretty labor intensive and having a dog forces me to at least get in walks, so I still felt I was getting plenty of movement.
I returned home and back to my old training style. It’s amazing to think about how my goals changed from May 2018 to those 3 years later. My old goal of losing weight and being skinny was just a broad and uninspiring goal for me. It forced me into a training style where I overexerted myself and left myself with very little energy left to devote to other things. Something I didn’t realize until after the fact, because at the moment I was enjoying the training and didn’t see the downside. Sometimes you really need to step away and see that you are overtraining.
Becoming a Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach definitely helped with revising my goals, as education sometimes is the best tool to combat toxic habits! Now I have definitely found a routine that fits my lifestyle and highlights my life but isn’t the driving force of it. I now do multiple daily walks with my dog, start each day with yoga and stretching and do 20-30 minute circuits 2-4 times a week depending on my schedule.
Now in March 2022!
Now as I transition into a new routine and starting a new job running a gym, I am still keeping up with my routine. My main goal is to still improve strength and build more cardio health, but I know I have to be patient with where I am at and how much I train. Starting a new job and a new year is already stressful and I don’t want training and my health to become an obligation. Health and wellness is something I love and brings me joy.
The best advice I can give anyone on a journey to better their health is to practice patience and know the path is not linear. In a perfect world we would just hit our goal and stay there or start losing weight and keep up that path, but our bodies have so much more responsibility than we give them credit for. Your body is fighting through stress, illnesses, dietary choices and so many other things. Realizing that our bodies function differently day-to-day is really important!
It’s taken me almost 4 years to find the balance I needed. I have learned so much about myself and this industry in that time. I have learned that the world is filled with so much misinformation and we owe it to ourselves to be educated about what we are doing. Most importantly is knowing that the journey to health can be fun. “No pain no gain,” is honestly just a lie. Find what you love. Find the balance that works for you. Find yourself on this path.
Hope this helps someone who may be feeling defeated or just in need of some inspiration. I BELIEVE IN YOU!
Until next time… and remember you deserve health and happiness.